House Pets May Provide Health Benefits for Infants

Dogs have often been touted as a man’s best friend. However, it may be more accurate to say that it is an infant’s best friend. A new study done in Finland suggests that infants who grow up in a household with either a dog or a cat are less likely to suffer from coughs, runny noses and ear infections. These babies were also less likely to need treatment that includes antibiotics.

While it is not currently known how having pets in the home can contribute to an infant’s health, one theory suggests that the dirt and allergens that a pet brings into the home may actually be good for a child’s immune system.

The research
consisted of almost 400 infants. The parents would keep record of the child’s health as well as how often their child had contact with pets.

The study shows that before the babies reached their first year, close to 300 of them had contracted a fever at least once. 335 also suffered minor bouts of coughs with 157 having an ear infection and almost 200 having to take some form of antibiotics.

The study indicated that those who reportedly had contact with a household pet experienced fewer illnesses. Those who had contact with a dog were healthy around 76 percent of the time, while those who had no dog contact were only healthy for about 65 percent of the time. Overall, the former was also 29 percent less likely to be treated for antibiotics.

It is believed that all the germs and bacteria that a pet attracts into the home forces a baby’s immune system to work harder, and therefore develop more quickly.

Of course, the study does not prove for certain that pets lead to healthier children, so there is no need for expectant parents to go to the nearest pet store and bring home a new puppy or kitten.

Shark Attack in Monterey

A surfer was bitten in the neck last weekend by a shark at a beach near Monterey, California. 27-year-old Eric Tarantino was surfing for only 10 minutes at Marina State Beach before he was attacked on the forearm and neck by a nine-foot shark.

Tarantino was saved by friends who pulled him out of the water and stopped his bleeding before he was airlifted to safety. Tarantino saw the shark prior to the attack however he could not escape in time.

The sheer force of the great white shark is reflected in the images of the young man’s surfboard which bore a 19-inch gash in it following the attack.

Four years prior to the incident, Tarantino’s friend and fellow surfer, Todd Engris, was attacked by a shark at the same beach. Engris told “The Today Show” that the news of the attack on Tarantino “shakes me up.”

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Notwithstanding the grizzly nature of these as well as other shark attacks, the video from Today explains that “experts say beach goers are more likely to drown than be attacked.”
Actually, human attacks on sharks are far more common than vice versa. On average, five people are killed by sharks each year. However, up to 70 million sharks are killed each year by fishermen, according to University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File.

Deadly Diseases go to Hollywood

An article in the LA Times indicates that microscopic viruses are the biggest bad guys in Hollywood, multiplying with abandon in films such as “Contagion” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes“, as well as factoring in AMC’s zombie-centric TV show “The Walking Dead“. These infectious agents are an excellent cinematic expression of evil — invisible to the naked eye, they spread with abandon and kill scores with no remorse.

Rick Jewell, a professor of film history at the USC School of Cinematic Arts told LA Times Reporters that:

“When people are really fearful about the future, these kinds of films tend to come to the fore… Whether they’re necessarily worried about germs and things like that is beside the point. What they’re more worried about is, ‘What does the future look like?’ And right now there’s good reason to be concerned about the future.”

Therefore we are embracing killer virus movies in order or as a means to “channel our worries about unemployment, upside-down mortgages, global warming and the war in Afghanistan.”
Jewell told the LA Times:

“There have been some viruses and other health situations that have been pretty scary, and that factors right into the fears we have about terrorism, the economy getting worse and more people losing their jobs…I see these films as apocalyptic visions of the future.”

Joe Pichirallo, chairman of the undergraduate film and television program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts told the newspaper:

“We have never felt quite as safe as we did before that event… and stories that play off seemingly normal things that could end up being monsters tend to fit in with the zeitgeist…What is going to scare people and feel fresh and new…I would imagine one reason viruses and zombies are coming back is because they haven’t been exhausted.”

Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture studies at Syracuse University in New York told the newspaper that:

“Everyone was vulnerable to [AIDS], and this bred a generation of people who realized something like that could happen…The creative community was decimated by it…Back in World War II, you knew who you were attacking, and someone was going to win or lose…People go to the movies to be entertained…They don’t go with the hope that they’re going to feel worse than they did when they walked into the theater. That’s not something people want to pay for.”

Jeannine Stein concluded in her LA Times article:

“Happy endings aren’t guaranteed in real life, though, and it’s always possible that another virus like the 1918 Spanish flu — which is believed to have killed at least 50 million people worldwide — could come along. If it does, movies about killer viruses may be the last thing we’d want to see.”

Snake is Bite Victim in California Attack

A snake bite victim in a north Sacramento, California neighborhood left the victim in serious condition, however, the injured party might not be who you think it is. Police say that the python underwent emergency surgery after a man allegedly bit the creature twice.

Officers were called to the scene which happened at Del Paso Heights at sometime around 6:30 p.m. Thursday after a passer-by witnessed a man lying on the ground as if he were assaulted and reported it to the police. According to Sgt. Andrew Pettit, when police arrived, they found that 54-year-old David Senkstill was lying there by the snake, however, police say he was not the one who was attacked. Another man approached the police officers and accused Senk of taking two bites out of his 3-foot pet python. The alleged snake-biter was arrested on suspicion of unlawfully maiming or mutilating a reptile and booked on $10,000 bail.

In an interview from jail with KXTL-TV on Friday, Senk says he has no memory of the incident and is an alcoholic.

“I did what?” He said. “If you find the owner, tell him I’m real sorry. … I’m willing to help pay for medical expenses.”

The snake was turned over to San Diego’s Animal Care Services, where it was recovering on Friday after the loss of several ribs. The female python, which is about a couple years old, suffered extensive bite injuries, said the local acting animal care services manager.

“You could see the poor snake’s liver, all the way down the side…”

The owner of the snake has not yet come forward to claim the pet or file a report with animal care officials. The name of the snake remains unknown at this time.

Spider and Penis Fossils

The spiderlike creatures generally called daddy longlegs looked just as creepy 305 million years ago as they look today, according to a brand new computer model which shows the bugs settled into their modern forms early.

Scientists were able to create 3-D models of two ancient harvestmen species, members of groups known as the Dyspnoi and Eupnoi, using fossils discovered in mineral deposits in France more than 20 years ago.

Russell Garwood of the Natural History Museum in London said:

These fossils were “preserved in nodules of iron carbonate, or siderite,” and the mineral, well, the mineral “precipitates out early in the history of the rock, sometimes around animal remains, and prevents [the remains] from being crushed. … The animal then rots away, leaving a void in its shape.”

The new re-creations support the idea that daddy longlegs have changed remarkably little over time, even though the ancient arachnids lived at a time when their spider and scorpion relatives were still evolving into their current shapes.

For instance, spiders living 300 million years ago still bore resemblance of segments on their back halves, a trait modern spiders don’t have.

Scorpions living back then were also still relatively primitive, said Garwood, who conducted his research while at the U.K.’s Imperial College London.

Unlike modern species, ancient scorpions “had compound lateral eyes, median eyes near the front rather than the middle of their carapace, and a different position of the opening into the lungs,” he said.

The model of the Eupnoi species reveals long legs curved at the ends, a feature some modern harvestmen species use for holding vegetation while moving around from leaf to leaf.

In contrast, the Dyspnoi fossil had spikes on its back that it might have used to discourage the attention of predators.
A modern species of harvestman with spikes like these lives in moist, woody debris on the forest floor, and the team thinks the ancient Dyspnoi had a lifestyle like this.

That there were two discrete lineages of harvestmen living 305 million years ago attests to the theory that the creatures were among the earliest arachnids to take an evolutionary turn.

In another major discovery, genitals were used as important clues to identify many spider species as they can vary widely in shape and form between species. This variation in shape is thought to ensure females can only mate with males of their own species.

Fossils of both female and male harvestmen bearing genitals were originally uncovered in 2001 embedded in rocks from the village of Rhynie, near Aberdeen in Scotland. 400 million years ago, Rhynie would have resembled what Yellowstone park looks like today.

Yet another fascinating feature of the fossils is that they have large branching trachea which is the harvestmen equivalent to lungs. This is the oldest known example of air-breathing apparatus of this type found in arachnids and suggests the animals were land-living. Arachnids, along with all animal groups, started their life in the ocean.

PETA porn?

Throughout their history PETA campaigns have included all things from models posing naked for its anti-fur campaign to scantily clad women having sex with vegetables in support of veganism.

Today, PETA has pulled out all the stops with a XXX porn site for its forthcoming marketing endeavor.

More and more of the experts suggest that eating less meat is better for your health, and of course better for animals. PETA’s website describes life for animals on factory farms:

Chickens have their sensitive beaks seared off with a hot blade, and male cattle and pigs are castrated without any painkillers. Farmed chickens, turkeys, and pigs spend their brief lives in dark and crowded warehouses, many of them so cramped that they can’t even turn around or spread a single wing. They are mired in their own waste, and the stench of ammonia fills the air.

So just what does pornographic mean to PETA? The ad will have enough adult content to qualify for the XXX domain site but also some other graphic images of animals which viewers may not expect to see.

Australia’s Herald Sun reported that “PETA’s sexy side displayed in galleries and videos will quickly give way to the sinister world of animal mistreatment uncovered by the group’s hidden camera investigations in a very different kind of graphic content.”

With all the details still to be finalized, PETA failed to confirm that regular people, not just celebrities, will also be a part of the project.

The first environmental porn movement was founded in 2005, according to The Independent. It was created by a Norwegian and
Swedish couple. The couple offered a subscription video service and the money went to environmental causes.

PETA’s jump into adult content comes on the heels of Brooke Hogan posing naked for a photo exhibit to benefit PETA.

PETA has also done ad campaigns with adult film stars Ron Jeremy and Sasha Grey and Jenna Jameson. In 2008, the organization’s

YouTube account was turned off after racy videos of celebrities having sex was posted.

While it is PETA’s objective to improve animal welfare, some claim that the move to protect animals comes at the cost of exploiting women. A Facebook group, Real Women Against PETA, was made after the organization posted a billboard of an obese woman which read, “Save the Whales, Lose the Blubber, Go Vegetarian.” A Sydney Morning Herald headline for once read, “Pro-vegetarian group treats women like meat.”

Indian Elephants Electrocuted

Dudhwa national park

Three elephants were tragically electrocuted at a wildlife sanctuary in northern India, after they uprooted a utility pole and became entangled in its wires. The wild elephant population of India is estimated at about 26,000.

Dudhwa national parkThe charred remains of the elephants caught in the wires were discovered on Friday at the Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh state. The elephants seemed to be part of a herd moving through the park in the Himalayan foothills. Relatives of the elephants did not give any statement. Local veterinarians will be conducting autopsies on the elephants before they are buried in the park.

The park is about 155 miles (250 kilometers) southeast of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. While the threat to elephants in India is not as dramatic as that facing tigers, the decline of their population worries wildlife activists.

The Problem with British Jelly Fish

A foray of jellyfish into a cooling water pond at a Scottish nuclear power plant kept its nuclear reactors offline last Wednesday, a phenomenon that could become more common in the future.

Two reactors at EDF Energy’s Torness nuclear plant on the Scottish east coast remained closed for one day after they were manually shut down due to masses of jellyfish blocking cooling water filters.

Power plants draw water from nearby rivers or seas to cool down their reactors, however, if the filters that keep out marine animals and seaweed are clogged up, the station shuts down to maintain its temperature and safety standards.

Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation said that power plants follow a pre-planned program when such situations occur.

The most recent plant availability data from network operator National Grid showed Torness reactor 1 would be returning to service on July 5 and reactor 2, July 6, although, operator EDF Energy was unable to give a restart date.

Operators often take the opportunity presented by an unplanned stoppage to carry out maintenance work.

A spokesman for Britain’s largest nuclear power operator, EDF Energy, said:

“We are working to clear the jellyfish from the waters near the power station. This work, as well as monitoring the area for more jellyfish, is ongoing.”


Scientists say jellyfish obstructing power plants is not a common occurrence in England, though it has happened more often in other countries like Japan.

Water temperatures off the east coast of Scotland are currently 13 degrees Celsius, that is one degree above average levels for this time of the year.

Increasing global warming and fishing activity are giving jellyfish populations a boost, potentially making jellyfish invasions at nuclear power plants located near the open sea increasingly common in the future.

Chinese Pandas

China is about to engage in a once-every-ten-year count of giant pandas living in the wild.

The official China Daily reported that upwards of sixty trackers are being trained at Wanglang National Reserve in the southwestern province of Sichuan – a province that is believed to have the largest number of wild pandas in China.

Here’s what they will do to take their census:

They will start by collecting droppings for a DNA analysis that will allow zoologists to track individual pandas and accurately estimate the population, Chen Youping, the director of the reserve’s administrative department, was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency.

Also, the census is expected to bring to light more on living conditions, age structure and changes of habitat of the endangered species.

The last census counted 1,596 wild pandas in China, 1,206 of which were living in Sichuan.

Wild pandas are threatened by a loss of habitat, poaching and that they are poor breeders. Females in the wild normally have a cub once every two or three years.

The trackers will begin a pilot survey at the nature reserve this week which is expected to end by the beginning of the month of July.

What’s With All This Algae: Dead Zone in the Gulf

Scientists are predicting that this year’s “dead zone” of low-oxygen water in the northern Gulf of Mexico will be the largest to date. Every year when the nutrient-rich freshwater of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers pour into the Gulf, it causes massive algae blooms. Then this algae consumes the oxygen in the Gulf, making the low oxygen conditions.

Shrimp, fish and many other species have to escape the dead zone or face dying.

Federal scientists are predicting that this year’s zone will be between 8,500 square miles and about 9,400 square miles. The actual size of the dead zone is to be measured this summer.

The largest recorded dead zone was in 2002 with 8,400 square miles of the Gulf lacking sufficient oxygen for marine life.
The forecasts on the size of the hypoxic zone most of the time is close to the mark, however, hurricanes have shattered them in the past.

The biggest culprit is fertilizer and the phosphates and nitrates in them which wind up in the Mississippi River every spring and get flushed out to the Gulf.

States in the Mississippi valley in concert with the federal government are attempting to reduce runoff from lawns, farms and cities, however, those efforts haven’t curbed the problem thus far.